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Juvenile diabetes fundraiser comes with a positive message

Matthew Tobkin, 11, was diagnosed with Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes almost four years ago; his parents, Paul and Carrie, along with siblings Nicholas, 8, and Luke, 3, joined him in hosting Thursday’s Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser in Detroit Lakes. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

Holy Rosary School fifth grader Matthew Tobkin was just 7 years old when he was first diagnosed with Type I diabetes.

“I’ve had it for almost four years now,” he said as he sat next to the donation bucket at a Thursday night benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, hosted by the Tobkin family at La Barista in Detroit Lakes.

Matthew exhibited all the classic early warning signs of the disease, his mother Carrie says, from a voracious appetite and extreme thirst to weight loss and frequent urination — “you don’t have to mention that last one,” Matthew said, cringing just a little at his mother Carrie’s description of the symptoms.

The difference between Type I and Type II diabetes, Carrie says, is that Type I is insulin dependent, while Type II can usually be controlled through diet and exercise.

“He wears an insulin pump,” Carrie said of her son, as Matthew held the device up to demonstrate.

The pump allows Matthew to maintain constant control of his insulin intake, which must be increased whenever he consumes any carbohydrates.

“I have to test (for blood sugar) at least five times a day, and whenever I eat something, I have to figure out how many carbs are in it,” Matthew said.

Once he figures out the carb content, he inputs that figure into the insulin pump, which releases enough insulin to cover his carb intake for that meal.

Though he initially required quite a bit of help in managing the disease, these days Matthew “takes care of it all on his own during the school day,” Carrie says.

In addition to carbohydrate consumption, Matthew also has to watch for signs of his blood sugar dropping whenever he participates in physical activities.

“I have to be extra careful during any physical activity, especially in the snow and cold,” Matthew said.

“He’s more susceptible to the cold,” Carrie agreed — but that doesn’t prevent Matthew from participating in a wide range of sports activities, including baseball, basketball and golf.

“And next year, football,” Matthew said with a smile.

Part of the reason why he’s able to participate in so many sports is that Matthew does a really good job of staying on top of monitoring his blood sugar levels, Carrie said.

“Plus I go to the doctor every four months,” Matthew added.

“He never really gets to forget about having it — but with the technology and treatments they have available now, you can lead a long, healthy life with diabetes,” Carrie said. “You have to take care of yourself, but you can stay healthy.”

Part of the reason for that is the research that has been done through the JDRF, which is why Carrie said that she tries to organize a local fundraiser for the nonprofit research foundation at least once a year.

“If there’s a silver lining to having diabetes, it’s that we’ve been able to be on the receiving end of a lot of generosity — there are lots of generous people in this community,” Carrie said, giving particularly high praise to friend LeAnn Mouw, for helping her organize Thursday’s benefit and find the right speaker, and La Barista owner Brooke Wenzel, for donating the space and appetizers for the event.

It’s also the reason why Carrie, her husband Paul and their three children try to take part in the annual JDRF Walk held in the Twin Cities every February — though they’re going to miss this year’s event, “due to a basketball conflict,” Carrie added.

While their other two sons, Nicholas, 8, and Luke, 3, are at a slightly higher than normal risk for getting the same disease — “there’s a 5 percent chance of his siblings getting it,” Paul Tobkin said — Carrie added that because they now know all about the warning signs, they can get it diagnosed quickly.

“We can always test them with Matthew’s glucose meter — and we do, whenever we get worried,” Paul said.

About three dozen people attended Thursday night’s JDRF fundraiser, which besides appetizers and wine tastings donated by Wenzel, also included a presentation from Forum Communications columnist Nicole Phillips, who spoke on the topic, “Kindness is Contagious.”

Phillips said she was excited to speak at a JDRF benefit because one of her best friends had a son who was diagnosed with the disease when he was just 13 months old (he’s now 8½, she added).

Phillips talked about how “random acts of kindness are only random to the person receiving it,” but to the giver, they’re not random at all.

“They know exactly why they’re doing it,” she said, later adding that it’s not only the recipient who gets the benefit of an act of kindness, but the giver as well.

“An act of kindness changes the day of the person who receives it — and it changes the life of the person who gives it,” Phillips said, adding, “I was able to find my passion… to find my joy, through acts of kindness.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454